You are brave
No relationship can promise happiness.
You know this.
You know it's true when I say the central experience we are returned to again and again in relationships -- in fact, in life generally -- is the experience of uncertainty.
The question is: How do you respond to the uncertainty. How do you engage with risk and fear and vulnerability?
Entering an intimate relationship is an act of faith. It's a swandive into the unknown. The threat of injury is great, and yet, there you are, saying 'yes' anyway. There you are, taking a deep breath, insides trembling, punching the 'send' button on the text, answering the phone when she calls.
Rejection is possible. Humiliation. A chance you'll say too much, or not enough, or that the whole thing will be a slow-burning disaster.
But there's also a chance you, with fragile hope, will offer up your tender heart, and that the other person will too, and then...and then what?
Things ended, you say?
This is what you now know for sure: You've got what it takes to launch yourself off the edge of the nest; to catapult into the abyss, with no safety net in sight.
You've got cajones.
Better than you were before.
A relationship is a laboratory for the soul. It tests you. Again and again. It takes a giant flashlight and forces you to look at The Stuff you've hidden away, out of sight, inside the dusty broom closet of your psyche.
That stuff isn't pretty. Of course not. It's in the broom closet for a reason thankyouverymuch. And you've done just fine all this time, disregarding The Stuff.
But now, here comes Relationship casually strutting in with an industrial strength flashlight and hardhat, poking around, asking questions, wanting to unpack The Stuff, and drag it into the open. Wanting to donate some of it to Goodwill.
Wanting to "fix" things.
The absolute nerve.
This is why relationships are so triggering. They reveal things about the other person, yes, but they reveal much more about you. And there is pain in the revelation. The Stuff is highly light-sensitive.
But now that you've been through it, you've completed Step One.
With some time and distance, you can carefully, perhaps with kidgloves, and a forgiving candle, re-enter those spaces of unease alone. Try to confront the underbelly of your past. This way, next time, things will be different.
Not because your partner has changed.
But because you have.
You're still in the game.
It's up to you, now.
You can do the work. You can interrupt the patterns of behavior that have damaged you and others. You can use that candle-light to slowly melt away the hardness of your defenses.
And then, you can saddle up, and ride again. You can seek. You can apologize. You can forgive.
...or you can wallow.
And that's OK, too. For a time. You can go there. Provided you don't move in, and start having your mail forwarded.
Attend to The Wallow, if that's what you need to do. And as you attend, learn to abide the experience of your emotions, as an alternative to escaping them.
Ride the tide, acknowledging that you are richer for having a broken heart; that the seeds of empathy and softness have been planted within you now, if they weren't there before. A lot of great art (and awareness) is born of hurt. In the words of Rumi: "the wound is where the light enters."
So allow it to enter. Don't fight it. Cultivate it. Feel it.
Own the discomfort, that you might create something worthwhile from it. Write about it. Pitch it, run it, sauté it. Whatever it is, just do it. Recast your pain as a thing of light and beauty.
Because that is what it means to be alive.
*A version of this piece ran previously, on Medium.